While astronauts, who spent mere hours on the moon, are heroes forever, immigrants who travel outside their home countries and spend entire lifetimes in a new land are never celebrated.Yet their achievement is not in ordinary nature.They have to constantly straddle two different worlds.The cultural values ,landscapes and the soothing familiarity of their homelands and that of their adopted land.This series is about the immigrant experience.It is about people who have had birthplaces other than the worlds they inhabit.Like a winged seed which travels far away from the mother plant to exploit the resources of new ground ,immigrants travel many miles to realize their dreams.Again and again they strike their roots into unfamiliar soil .Since the time I was born I have had to relocate every few years to new cities and new countries. When I was little I found this experience intimidating but over the years it has made me very resilient and adaptable . I am quickly able to change myself and blend into my new surroundings .However, the answer to the question"where is my home" still eludes me.I have recently relocated with my family to a new city and hence I found the subject "Mawtini" very close to my heart.I approached the subject like a market researcher…by asking each member of my family a set of questions …about what home means to them and if each of had to pack one thing that represents home what would it be .This was the origin of the series "A suitcase called home"
Sycamore-:My daughter is 12 years old and is very attached to me. I know that in a few years time she might have to fly away to a distant land in pursuit of higher education . If she had to pack "home" in a suitcase she would pack me, her mother. Home for most of us, means our families. No one understands us better.
Frangipani-:My housemaid has moved in with us recently from a little village near Mumbai India and though she cannot articulate her feelings clearly I know she misses her village.I imagined that her home in a suitcase might contain "champa"( frangipani )flowers which she used to decorate her hair with….the incessant pouring rain , still ,dark,humid nights when not even a leaf stirs, and the "fishy" smell of the sea.
Ghaf Tree-:My son who is10 years old misses his old house terribly and wants to pack it inside a suitcase….A house where his friend lived next door and a "ghost" lived in a Ghaf tree down the lane.He is reminded of this house each time he pays "Ludo".Ludo is a childrens' game for four players, in which the players race their four tokens from start to finish(the finish is HOME a safe destination) according to dice rolls.For him home is a shelter, walled place.A house filled with its little secrets which he can explore and yet feel completely secure in.
Cyberfly-:My husband lives in cyberspace.He is always linked in with his friends and family in the virtual realm. For many of us this is the home we live in ,24 hours a day,24x7. Here we can either be ourselves ,brutally honest or wear a guise and be a pretend person without ever being found out . We can communicate with people in this home without ever being at a loss of words, without any fear of being judged and without a care in the world.A thing we can perhaps never do in the real world.I have used very old,fragile mediums rice paper( stored at the bottom of my suitcase many years ago) and watercolor pencils because the home of a traveller is a very fragile, transient place.
Tortoise-:I am a tortoise.I carry my home on my back wherever I go. My shell / skin is the warm place I am most comfortable in.Cyberfly-:My husband lives in cyberspace.He is always linked in with his friends and family in the virtual realm. For many of us this is the home we live in ,24 hours a day,24x7. Here we can either be ourselves ,brutally honest or wear a guise and be a pretend person without ever being found out . We can communicate with people in this home without ever being at a loss of words, without any fear of being judged and without a care in the world.A thing we can perhaps never do in the real world.I have used very old,fragile mediums rice paper( stored at the bottom of my suitcase many years ago) and watercolor pencils because the home of a traveller is a very fragile, transient place.
The fiction piece represents snippets of journal entries by Ethiopians living in Sudan.
They keep telling me to turn down the music, to take my phone calls outside. They don’t seem to understand that it makes me feel less empty when I hear my people talk. When I hear my mother’s tongue.
I wake up to the chirping of birds and the heat creasing my brows involuntarily. Mama slept-in this morning so I helped myself to some tahniya to have with my tea instead of plain bread. It was the only moment of peace I had before they hassled me to start sweeping and I wish Mohamed could’ve kept me company (over the phone). My friends warned me of raksha drivers they’d say they sleep all morning and work all night. I met Mohamed at the dukkan where mama sends me for credit or maggi; ever since I didn’t mind the daily trips.
i’ve been with this family for four years and only now (days before I leave the country) they realise I can make coffee and keep requesting more and more pots. As if God wants me to remember the smell of home. When I was too young to be trusted with coffee, I watched my real mama in the kitchen; adding two spoonfuls per cup, stirring, straining…no one tried to learn the sacred recipe in this house but I’m glad I get to keep it to myself.
My favorite room to clean was Hasna’s especially when she asks me to fold her clothes I felt less guilty going through her pretty stuff. I’d run my hands through the different fabrics, admire the lace on her lingerie and imagine myself wearing one of her clean white tops or the purple rouge to church where all my friends and Abebe could see me.
Every time I’m doing a new client’s hair at the shop they’d have to ask where I’m from. I don’t look like a typical sudani but I speak their accent. I tell them my parents are from Ethiopia but I’m from here; because Sudan is all I know.
The moment mama leaves for work, I turn on the tv and just leave it on while I sweep the house. She calls me around noon every day to tell me what to make for lunch, today she requested macarona for the third time this week. I found some leftover kisra and decided to make myself some zighneh. She’d always have a cigarette after lunch and I remember the first week I started working for her she offered me one. She lets me watch tv with her and even sit on the sofa. I make the coffee and she makes the popcorn. She likes to watch me jam to whatever is on Ethiopian TV while she smokes more cigarettes. I’d sometimes offer to massage her shoulders when she keeps cracking her neck. On weekends she’d tell me all her married friends’ drama while I braid her hair.
(طحنية) tahniya: sesame paste halvah
(دكان) dukkan: local shop
Maggi: a brand of cubed chicken stock
(سوداني) sudani: masculine for Sudanese
(مكرونا) macarona: Arabic for pasta
(كسرا) kisra: fermented sorghum sheets, eaten with traditional dishes instead of bread (popular in both Sudan and Ethiopia but prepared differently)
(زغنيه) zighneh: a popular Ethiopian dish
grandmother’s recipe for good daughters
boil water till it more or less tells you all the things you've done wrong/ add the cinnamon/ let it burn up/
let it decorate the room in its fragrance/ cover the scent of the fire before the neighbors pick up on it/ add
in the rice/ let it soak up what's left of a soul/ say it's for a good cause/ this is motherhood/ her remnants
are our nature/ stir in the whole/ the evaporated/ the coconut/ the condensed/ this is our shot at nurture/
this is birth/ the giving of a life made less of a sin/ our daughters smell like cinnamon/ we rarely stir in
raisins/ flavor is not the purpose/ as long as it is sweet and filling/ they/ warm or chilled/ fermented/ made
to sit/ diluted/ coagulated/ their bellies swell easily/ they are ready to be served to the world/ sustenance
trapped in famines eye/ heritage & culture/ struggle & machismo/ is what takes the best seat at the dinner
table/ pretty suffrage makes for an elaborate display/ gets home/ country/ through destabilization/ divorce/
poverty/ pregnancy/ guerras/ wars/ gets hunger through the night/ and the shy hours of the next morning
that creep in through the window/ the warmth on the bed sheets/ remind men there's a day’s work ahead
but something that will fill them when they come/ home
CARINA MILENA MACEIRA
KUWAIT / MEXICO
The superior act of writing, the act of bending down and crawling on all of your eight thin legs, stitching the strings together to articulate all that is holy of ideas in a written form, is perhaps exactly that and not at all.
Writing perhaps is not that noble of an act. Writing perhaps is not that great of a pursuit. Perhaps it does not have to carry the burden of saving humanity or expressing your petty heart.
Perhaps it is, simply, the opportunity to be an invisible man, to blend with the air and the earth and everything that is above, underneath and in between.
Writing perhaps is about witnessing one insignificant moment, and embodying the insignificance. That perhaps is what so significant about writing. Oh holy insignificant act of writing.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
"I know you're lying" the Israeli border officer spits at me. 4 hours in and i'm still trapped, got one foot in Jordan and one foot in Settler Colonialism (somehow on the wrong side of both), and her venom finally starts to strike.... am i lying? do i belong in the land she’s guarding? my blood’s running cold but it’s still mixed. Shami, Falasteeni, French and Irish. i want to cry while she stares me down. maybe if i scream loud enough "I’M NOT REALLY ARAB" it'll free me from her glare. Use the imposter’s language and maybe they’ll believe you. her eyes are green, the same as my mom's and i'm reminded that this officer and i could be related somewhere back in history. she still spits at me, this time in Hebrew so i don't understand, and my heart starts to break for her. when did they tell her family that they didn't belong, just like she’s telling me now? when did her relatives give up on life and succumb to that disease she’s spreading to me? when did birthplace become displaced in her ancestors hearts? we're victims of the same power, i think quietly, and as she yells at me with one hand on a semiautomatic i'm tempted to embrace her. it's ok, i want to tell this border guard. You belonged There. your politics lied to you. and now they're killing us both. i want to hold her hand so we can heal each other’s wounds and i don't have to play Fake Arab to survive and her ancestors can live historically, happily, in their European homeland. i want this so much it makes me sick, but she wants me gone. 4 hours later and she deports me away from the place my ancestors reach when they finally come Home.
waist sinks into palms calling psalms against his headboard he is gasping ya rab,
feel him sinking into bone marrow swallowing hawa burns underneath him
limestones stack into structures of relief, burnt oranges planted into land he buries me in carnations i asked for yasmine
remake me into my name i want to be soft, begging for liberation in love
pharaoh structures flood in cheekbones makeshift feluka taken from bones;
i grasp at remnants of home under his skin
drowning in dreams of him, feel earth cracking under steps bride and groom bride and groom city collapsing he takes it all for himself
cannot call him selfish when he remakes our cities into my body;
hips filling his palms, grasping gasping psalms into manifest destiny drips, him into me, back arches into his torso lifting into a7lam a7lam a7lam feel the sun pouring into skin rinses bodies underwater legs pressed into his waist hands dip into crevices divine femininity he is alive.
there are no days where i spit his blood from my mouth, no more days of medicine overtop burns, my gums are no longer stained. recite salvation over bodies, hands turned into prayer swallow hips in between bites of ya rab ya rab ya rab.
I think there’s a
between Him and I.
Ibrahim, to try
Ismail on the rock.
Or was it Isaac?
I don’t remember
the verse, I thump
with my tongue, dis-
and play the song,
strung by cursive
threads on a page,
black and white
like infidel and believer,
but when I read out
loud, the more
مُسْلِمِيْنَ and مُشْرِكِيْنَ.*
*old Arabic; مُشْرِكِيْنَ [mush-ri-kiin] heathen / مُسْلِمِيْنَ [mus-li-miin] one who submits.
A photo series exploring the geography I have flown over while travelling between the United Arab Emirates, Syria and Czech, my three homes for the past 21 years of my life. Photographed using Google Maps, a medium through which I can still visit ‘home’ despite any wars, conflicts or obstacles.